Slime-tastic summer: OHIO senior's dream comes true with Nickelodeon internship

Published: September 12, 2023 Author: Jalyn Bolyard

For Allison Irey, her dream came true this summer: working as a production technology intern at Nickelodeon Animation Studio in California. She was one of 22 interns out of 6,000 applicants for the program. 

Irey first learned about the NICKternship, Nickelodeon’s annual internship program, in high school. Since then, she’s been planning and working towards the opportunity to learn from the animators that created her favorite television shows growing up.

“To say that this was a dream of mine is a severe understatement,” she said. 

In high school, Irey, who is from Troy, Ohio, was convinced she would attend college in California. Her mom persuaded her to at least tour one in-state college, and Irey agreed. 

“We visited Ohio University in October of my senior year, and as soon as I stepped on campus in the peak fall weather, I was already pretty hooked,” she recalled. “However, we got a chance to attend an academic info session that day, and that's where I learned about the OHIO-in-LA Program. I was determined to go to OU after that, applied to only OU as soon as I got home, and got in.” 

Irey, now a senior in media arts production from the Scripps College of Communication, credits her education and experiential learning opportunities at Ohio University for preparing her for the dream opportunity. 

To LA and back again

In Fall 2022, Irey participated in the OHIO-in-LA program, led by Dr. Roger Cooper. During that time, she held three different internships and also attended Cooper’s Business of Hollywood class. 

“Dr. Roger Cooper’s Business of Media and Business of Hollywood classes have been crucial to my success as an intern at Nickelodeon; I know how a professional intern works in a major studio environment, I know how to network properly, and I know how to leave an impact on the places I work all because of these classes,” she said.

One of the guest speakers that met with OHIO-in-LA participants was Jim Leber, vice president of production technology at Paramount and Nickelodeon Animation Studios, who has worked at Nickelodeon since 1993. 

“After this class, I followed up with Jim; we met over Zoom multiple times to talk about his career at Nickelodeon, as well as about my passions lying within animation- specifically at Nickelodeon,” she said. “At the end of December 2022, he encouraged me to apply for the NICKternship program, just to see what would happen – and because he believed I was capable enough to secure a position.”

He was right. Irey secured the internship for this summer, working and living in California from June through August. 

Allison Irey poses with her hands up, wearing an Ohio University sweatshirt outside of a movie gate with "Nickelodeon" on top.

As an intern, Irey assisted the production technology department with any technological needs. The department is in charge of all technology support for voice recording, animatic editing, and picture editing. 

In a typical week, Irey would sit in on recording sessions with voice actors, shadow an editor, meet with the production tech, and spend any down time networking with staff in other departments. 

“The production technology team works with all aspects of production, and I was transparent with my hiring manager about wanting to see and try out all aspects of animation production,” she said. “Because of this, my team assisted me in getting into shadow recording sessions for shows such as ‘Big Nate,’ ‘The Loud House’ and ‘Rugrats,’ dialogue edit and picture edit lock sessions for ‘Transformers: Earthspark,’ ‘Baby Shark's Big Show’ and ‘Monster High,’ and animatic edit sessions for ‘SpongeBob SquarePants.’” 

The internship also had a surprise in store. In high school, Irey did a 36-page research project on Nickelodeon history that included sections on Mary Harrington, who greenlit the first three “Nicktoons” in 1991: “Ren & Stimpy,” “Rugrats” and “Doug.”

“She has been an inspiration to me for many years, and I found out that she still worked at Nickelodeon as an executive producer,” Irey said. “A member of my team heard about my project, and, to my surprise, connected Mary and I over email one afternoon. We met one on one, which was such a surreal and exciting moment for me.” 

Irey gives thanks to her parents for helping her relocate to Los Angeles twice now and cheering her on during her career decisions. 

She also credits her faculty and OHIO education for preparing her for her many internships and her future career. 

“[Professors] Andie Walla, Brian Plow, and Cecil Houser’s video production and editing courses, where I learned Adobe Premiere Pro, has been elemental for my understanding of using non-linear editing programs in a professional environment,” Irey said. “Because of those courses, I was able to help the animatic editor for ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ fix an issue she'd been having within Adobe Premiere Pro for six months all in a matter of minutes.”

OHIO’s impact

Irey notes that her experiential learning opportunities, outside of the classroom, have been a huge part of her OHIO journey. 

“While my courses at OU are highly important to my success, my campus experiences outside of the classroom have really helped me fulfill my biggest goal of making an impact on other people,” she said. 

Allison Irey sits criss-crossed on an outside bench at Nickelodeon's campus, with character statues behind her

Irey has held various leadership roles with Fridays Live, OHIO’s longest running sketch comedy show, currently as alumni coordinator and director. She also works as a student manager for the Scripps College of Communication equipment room and serves as a tour guide. 

“[With Fridays Live,] I’ve helped foster incredible relationships between alumni and current members; one of our alums recently assisted a recent grad in securing a job at Paramount, something that would not have been possible without the creation of the alumni coordinator role,” she said. “[In the equipment room,] I truly love being able to answer student questions and assist with troubleshooting the gear we have. Lastly, I became a tour guide after the Fall 2022 LA Program, because I could really start seeing the impact that OU was having on my own career; I wanted to share my story with prospective students to hopefully help them with their college decision process.” 

When it comes to looking at internship or experiential learning opportunities, Irey encourages other students to “dream big” and to not be afraid to network with others. 

“No matter how many times people tell you that your dreams are ridiculous or unrealistic, if you keep working hard to achieve them, they will happen,” she said. 

After graduation this May, Irey plans to move back out to Los Angeles for a third time – with plans to stay and work in animation, hopefully at Nickelodeon. 

“Ohio University’s opportunities are so surprising every single day, in the best way possible,” Irey said. “I am so thankful I visited one Ohio school for my mom’s sake, because it has worked out in every way imaginable.”